Feeling Ways about Drake, Gojira, and Drinking Too Much

Two pints of Guinness was enough. Three would have been one too many.

I had taken a few weeks off drinking (and a few months off writing) after some tough times, and a friend asked me to join her in writing at a San Francisco bar called Vesuvio. Jack Kerouac wrote there. They had coffee but it just felt like a place for a drink. Or two.

A buzz for me is a sweet spot. The edges of life smooth out. Everything feels less messy. Until it doesn't. Until the good times roll off the road and I blackout.

It's not complicated. Let's call it what it is - binge-drinking. And it's not just the drinks; it's that two or three turns into a question mark. It's a subconscious decision to chase the feeling.

That's the big secret at the core of Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. Commissioned by How to Win Friends and Influence People author Andrew Carnegie, Napoleon Hill made it his life's work to drill into what makes successful people just that. And, spoiler alert, the answer sits comfortably right in the title. Our minds bring thoughts into reality, and if you have a burning desire to make money, you'll find ways to make it appear in your life. Hill notes:

“The subconscious mind (the chemical laboratory in which all thought impulses are combined and made ready for translation into physical reality) makes no distinction between constructive and destructive impulses. It works with the material we feed it through our thought impulses.”

Like Austin Kleon wrote in Steal Like an Artist, "Garbage in, garbage out." Of course, when it comes to the drinks, I'm not subconsciously aspiring to be a drunk. But I had to admit to myself that my buzz is a dangerous turning point. I'm feeding my mind the idea that alcohol gives me one feeling when the tipping point shows it'll give me another.

In Drake's song "Feel No Ways" he tells a different story with the same concept - a split with a heartbroken lover. And when Drake sings, we can see he too has a choice to make about whether or not to accept it:

I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do
And that just didn’t sit right with you
And now you’re trying to make me feel a way, on purpose
Now you’re throwing it back in my face, on purpose

What's more interesting is what video essayist Evan Puschak, or The Nerdwriter, highlights in the production of this song. It is quintessential Drake, not just in lyrics, but in a sound The Nerdwriter describes as "Toronto-cold, 80's electro/R&B/rap/pop hybrid". If you listen to the Top 40 at all, you'd probably recognize it as well as I do without ever experiencing Toronto cold in the 80's. It feels a certain way without words and Drake accomplishes it with just three basic elements in the song: his voice, an electric piano melody, and a breakbeat drum pattern. The Nerdwriter makes clear that this sound is the result of Drake's subconscious mental diet. Drake's producer Noah "40 Shebib said Drake largely nailed down his particular sound after being influenced by Kanye West's album 808s & Heartbreak (another R&B/rap hybrid). Drake took West's first track "Say You Will" and made it his own, rapping and signing over the beat and calling it "Say What's Real". While Drake deals with his ex making him feel a way (on purpose), the track is a crystal-clear decision to make us feel a way too.

We often think pain and suffering is a bad thing but Drake has made a career off the pain and transformation inherent in break-up songs. Mark Manson noted this powerful strategy in The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck when he said, "Pain, in all of its forms, is our body’s most effective means of spurring action."

And as Drake is to break-up R&B/rap, Japanese cinema is to the creature feature. You probably know the King of the Monsters as the giant lizard Godzilla, but Gojira, the original Japanese film, was a sneaky cinematic revolution. Propaganda films were criminalized in post-war Japan and the Japanese were left to deal with an incredible array of feelings about the world after a bomb like no other was dropped on their home. Another great video essayist, Kaptain Kristian, explores this creative struggle in a video called Godzilla - The Soul of Japan. The Japanese took action and hide their pain in the creature feature. But, if you're looking, you can see the horror in the details - Gojira's skin is not scales, it's the charred, deformed flesh akin to that of an atomic bomb survivor.

And where the Japanese tried to understand and interpret their feelings a certain way through cinema, America did just the opposite by transforming the Japanese Gojira into Godzilla, King of the Monsters. American actors were added to the original film and Japanese dialog was barely translated. It became more a natural disaster film than a cultural thinkpiece. Americans were left to feel a different way about the whole thing, on purpose.

Everything we experience makes us feel certain ways. The choice is still ours to make but it can sit deep inside us. You better believe I feel different about Drake's music and Gojira's origins now that I know what I do.

But I can't help but think that if Alan Watts sat down to hear the stories of Gojira's transformation or Drake's sound, he'd probably offer his wise chuckle. Watts considered choice "a mental wobbling". It is the illusion that we can understand the fractals of the far-reaching consequences of every decision. We just can't take everything in.

Instead, Watts suggested we consider ourselves as clouds. He explained, "Did you ever see a cloud that was misshapen? Did you ever see a badly-designed wave?" There is no right amount of wobble; Watts would suggest you just be.

Easier said than done, right? Life can get incredibly complex even beyond rap artists and monster movies. But if we think the world is complex does that make it so? If you think you're overthinking, how does that work? Or is it just a feeling we can decide to accept or not?

A Life Less Serious with Super Soakers, Greeting Cards, and Lapdances

When I was younger, my writing was serious. Younger as in weeks ago. I've been trying so hard to figure out this thing called life because, you know, an unexamined life is blah blah blah.

But pushing too hard hurts. And in the process, you could miss something extremely entertaining. Philosopher Alan Watts had this to say - "Don't make a distinction between work and play. Regard everything you're doing as play and don't imagine for one minute that you have to be serious about it.

But he might have drank himself to death, so... 

Let's just have fun here, shall we?

Kurt Braunohler on Transforming Expectations

April Fools continues! Comedian Kurt Braunohler thinks life can suck so hard that we need to find ways to make it more absurd, unpredictable, and hilarious. He does it in the sneakiest of ways.

Little Esther & Angela Trimbur Discuss Spanking

Cocktales with Little Esther is a sex-positive talk-show with female comedians. If you couldn't guess by the name, it's probably NSFW. And funny. Can you be this honest?

Inventing Weapons for Adults and Kids Alike

Sometimes setting aside the heavy stuff leaves room for water gun fights. Working on top-secret government projects, serial inventor Lonnie Johnson accidentally transformed the summers of 90's kids. Also, check out these kid gangsters from the 1991 Super Soaker commercial.

The Onion on Problem-Solving

In it's infinite brilliance, The Onion offers a quick solution to most of life's problems: stop and think. What are you rushing to fix?

Until next time...
I explode into space.


How to Die Working

So many Japanese people are dropping dead from their jobs, the Japanese have a name for it: karoshi. Literally, karoshi breaks down to the characters for "exceed" + "work, labor" + "death". Overtime without pay has become the norm with some posting 80-hour (!) weeks, off the books to circumvent the the rules put in place to officially curb it. Competition has red-lined in the small country and the new workforce, in their late 20's, are dying from heart attacks and strokes. 

Halfway around the world, I'm sitting here dumbstruck. What's going on? We have something as amazing as the Internet existing in this world, and people are still dying just to find a job and people are dying on the job. Technology was supposed to be Our Savior, instead it has made it the new normal to work harder and longer, and normal has become anything but that. We need change and it's not just more jobs, it's more important jobs.

The Model T job is done. Retirement is long gone and benefits become the new gamble. Giving your life to a company is no longer enough because there is no stability in an ever-swirling world. The big question ends up becomes: What can we do?

My mind was racing over all of this, Japanese karoshi and American unemployment, in 7-11 yesterday. As I put together the materials for my coffee, I spied on the Optimum representative pitching his plan to the manager on duty. He was playing the Buddy card, as good salesmen think they should do, and explaining how Optimum could match Verizon on service and beat them on price. They shook hands without a deal, and the Optimum guy walked behind me as I was bringing my coffee to the counter. I was so distracted by how ugly and shallow the conversation was that I walked right out the door, coffee in hand, without paying! I noticed the moment I stepped out into the open and went back in to pay, befuddled and embarrassed.

While Daniel Pink would tell you to sell is human (in his new book, ahem, To Sell is Human), the new era of communication is showing us that sales can't be slimy anymore. The 7-11 manager doesn't care to be persuaded about Optimum, he can find the prices and service right online. Transparency has freed us from shady or slimy deals. And without the sincerity to truly believe in what you're selling, more and more jobs are becoming hollow shells of what the world needs. What we do need is passion, we need Life, not people playing roles about one service or another, dropping dead just to keep up with the Joneses.

We're racing to make ourselves act like technology. You cannot be as cheap and as quick as our Robot Future. (Seth Godin calls it The Race to the Bottom.) You don't want to be. You want to be irreplaceable, undeniable, alive. 

Yes, it's much worse for the Japanese dying in the streets than the gross transaction I witnessed at 7-11, but I think the bigger picture is important here. We need some new thinking about work. It is no longer a spot to fill to feed your family or your video game addiction, it is not a moving, working piece of the machine. Just like our technology, our world has become a cloud, flowing and ever-morphing. Work has to be something of true value, there is no more timeclock punch-card. As Jason Silva puts it, "Maybe we need to look at new narratives for how to live our lives in our search to become cosmic heroes." (Silva talks here.) There is no alternative, it's the new American Horror Story. When they take away the shit jobs with fast food robots and automated call centers, what do you do? Start moving people. Fix their troubles. Lift the world up.

We shouldn't be dying for our work, we should be coming alive with it. Find it for yourself and enjoy what Alan Watts called the "real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play."